India’s APEC membership not on the agenda, says U.S.

The Hindu, 3 November, 2015

India’s desire for membership is not on the agenda of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meeting in Manila in Philippines, on November 18 and 19, the U.S. said on Monday. “I do not believe there is any active consideration within APEC for expanded membership in the current time,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Senior Official for APEC Matt Matthews said.

Reminded that U.S. President Barack Obama had “supported” India’s desire for membership of the forum during his 2015 visit to India on Republic Day, he said the U.S. had so far only welcomed “India’s interest” in joining the APEC.

“It is important to be careful and accurate about describing President’s comment. President welcomed India’s interest in APEC. That speaks for itself. We welcome India’s examination of APEC. We have not entered [into any] discussion about it. I do not believe India is formally pressing for actual membership now in APEC,” he said.

U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region released during Mr. Obama’s New Delhi visit had said: “the United States welcomes India’s interest in joining the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, as the Indian economy is a dynamic part of the Asian economy.”

The statement was widely interpreted as U.S. support for India’s membership in the APEC, but Mr. Matthews’s statement on Monday brings clarity on the U.S. position.

“APEC is an organisation which is consensus based. So each of the APEC members has to agree to expansion of the APEC membership. And no discussion in APEC this year has focused on that topic,” Mr. Matthews said.

The 21-member APEC, established in 1989, has nearly half of the world trade among the members and India has been lobbying for its membership for the last two decades.

Observer status since 2011

India has been an observer at the forum since 2011 and a membership would have been in tune with the Modi government’s ‘Act East Policy,’ the purported improvement it claims to have brought about in the earlier ‘Look East Policy.’

Speaking to The Hindu earlier, another U.S. diplomat had said influential sections within the Obama administration considered India as an “obstructionist” force in multilateral forums. “India needs to prove that its presence in APEC will help everyone. Unfortunately, there are areas of concern,” he had said.

“I would suggest that for any economy that is interested in APEC, a great way to start is to go into identifying some form of working groups that work on particular areas …. [If] they are particularly interested in that, apply as a guest, send experts to participate, to both help understand how APEC works and get a better understanding of how process turnout works,” Mr. Matthews said on Monday.

In a recent study C. Fred Bergsten of Peterson Institute for International Economics argued that India could be accepted in APEC first before it could join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He argues trade liberalisation would enable India to increase its annual growth to 8 to 10 per cent.

Originally published India’s APEC membership not on the agenda, says U.SApe

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